Awaited Return of the First Morning

It is January 13th, 2014, and it is Seth Keomanivane’s first day back at McKendree. He will be returning to serve his first second term ever at McKendree University. In his return to McKendree, the weather had changed the tone of this eventful day with its gloomy demeanor and its drizzle of tears that poured down on him as he made his way to classes. Not only did this rain provide a barrier to his being, but on his way to his first class, he remembered he had forgotten to eat a replenishing breakfast. Therefore, with such a start to his day, Seth was able to overcome the depressing climate and the lack of nourishment.
    

       Awaiting for this day to arrive, Seth was joyous because he wanted to see his friends and discuss how his winter break went. But this exciting and joyful part of him was not present the day of January 13th. The life was drained right out of Seth, and his happiness slowly dissipated. The cause of this was the depressing weather. The ground lay cold, hard and wet, and even the grey-white sky induced a sort of separation from the rest of the world. Seth, taking in all these emotions and distractions slowly foot by foot, splash after splash, made it past the Aims Cafeteria.

            Following along this journey to overcome the atrocities were his sense of smell. In each step past Aims in his dampened shoes, he could smell the aroma of food. For Seth’s first sensory senses were the smells of a sautéed sausage in grease, combined with an over-easy egg with the p { margin-bottom: 0.1in; direction: ltr; line-height: 120%; text-align: left; widows: 2; orphans: 2; yolk pouring thick. Enough flowing for a rush of his taste buds within his mouth, he could not stop for he knew that being punctual on the first day of school was appropriate . But the taunts would never stop there for he could see within the clear cut glassed windows the long buffet line of breakfast goods. Yellow eggs, brown sausages, triangular breakfast pizza and, yes, hash browns down to the crisps.
            Coming up past Aims Cafeteria was a long winding sidewalk that headed right to a massive two- story brick building called Clark and adjacent to the right was 1828, another cafeteria. Making his way to the stairs, Seth tripped on a crack rising up from the sidewalk just adding to his frustrations of the morning. Now making his way to the door, Seth opened it with no struggle. Venturing his way upstairs, he looked to his right to an empty classroom with the lights off. While to his left were a medium-sized class of students just staring at him as if he felt they were judging him. Already affected by the bad climates, Seth felt a sense of discouragement. However, in front of his face was room 203, and after a glance at the schedule for reassurance, he knew had the correct room. In room 203 there was a long table extending from one wall to the other. Similar to a conference room for prestigious businesses. Sitting around the table were his new classmates, but it was as silent as space itself. The one female in the classroom sat with her head in her phone and her legs cramped together from feeling uncomfortably close to all the other students in the room. Angered by this, Seth was now in a mood not acceptable for a first day at school. The class dragged on about the syllabus which made for a long and boring hour for Seth.
            In short, everyone will have a day such as this. There will be times one may forget a meal or items such as waterproof shoes. For Seth, this was a learning curve and a lesson that life will knock one down, but it is the mentality one uses to cope. His day was intended for excitement to see friends and in detail, describe his crazy stories of break. Instead, Seth believed plans never go as expected, and he wanted to make that clear to his peers. However according to Seth, “Tomorrow’s another day, and there will be more first days to come.”
By Seth Keomanivane
I am an understanding and outgoing individual who enjoys leaving an impression with everyone I meet. 

With a Luggage Full of Hopes

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After months of waiting, the big day has arrived. Monday 13/01/2014 was my first day of college ever. I am from Italy, so the emotion, but also the concern was high. I was enthusiastic, but at the same time nervous because I did not know what to expect from a new method of teaching, if it would fit for me, and if I would be able to understand the professors. So the night before, I did not sleep a lot. As usual, in this situation, I fall asleep just a few hours before I have to wake. The same happened that night. 
Alarm clock, punctual rang at 7:55 A.M. Like a cat I jumped out of bed and I went to the bathroom. After 20 minutes I was ready to face the day. Walking on the campus for the first time was amazing. After 2 minutes I was in the dining hall to have my first breakfast as a college student. I took some cereals with milk because in addition to being a student, I will be a member of the university soccer team. So I have to keep the form. Anyway, after I finished breakfast, I kept on walking on the campus to reach my first class. In the meantime I was more entranced and less worried. 
I did not take a lot of time to find the class and 5-10 minutes before the class started, I was inside. At 9:00 o’clock the professor arrived. During her first lesson, she began to know us, and for the rest of the hour she explained to us what we would do during the semester with her. I can say I had a good impression of her. Moreover, at the end of the class, knowing that I am Italian, she stopped to talk with me 5 minutes, asking me how it is going so far, and if I had had troubles during her speeches, I could have stopped her during lessons. Really friendly and gentle. I said good bye to the teacher; I set out for the next class quickly trying to understand where to go. Finally, I arrived to the place where I had to stay. 
This was my second and last class of the day. The professor of this second class seemed to me respectable person and well prepared to explain his subject. As the first professor, he introduced himself to us and talked about the main purpose of the class. I have to say that both classes I have attended include great guys and great professors. So I was and I am much satisfied about that. 
After my classes concluded, I went to eat at the cafeteria with some friends of mine. At the end of it, I updated my parents about my first day calling them by Skype and then I called my Italian friends. It is always stunning to talk with them for the help and the encouragement that they give to me. At 16:30 P.M. I had a medical exam to play soccer with many documents to fill in and sign. The exam was positive for me and in fact I was happy to have the possibility to practice with the team. Later I decided to spend some time in the game room playing pool, tennis table and watching some NCAA basketball games. Then I visited the soccer field and I was really impressed by that. An incredible stadium, I cannot wait to play official games there. At 6:30 P.M. I had lunch and at 7:00 finally I was ready to have my deserved relaxation. In that spare time, I surfed the net reading some sport news and watching soccer games. 
At the end of day, exhausted, I went to sleep. In conclusion I can say that it was a strange day for me, plenty of different emotions and in general, I know, it will not be easy here due to the different culture and the different language between my country and this country, but I guess it will be a fantastic experience studying in the States because this one, in addition to giving me the opportunity to earn a degree, will give me a bigger opportunity to grow as a man. 
By Giampaolo de Silva 
I’m from Naples, Italy, and I study and play soccer at McKendree University. 

Eye Opener

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Looking through the long list of places I have done community services at,the food pantry,the community that was hit by a tornado and the cemetery were the ones that had caught my attention.I knew that all those places were going to be a great choice but I did not think it could make such an impact in my life.Service has always been a large portion of my life,mainly because I went to a Catholic grade school and high school.Every Thanksgiving I went to a local food pantry. When I arrived at the food pantry,I started packing food and prepped them for delivery.When the Thanksgiving trays were ready,I would drive to houses to deliver them to families who could not afford a Thanksgiving meal.
I did a lot of service in order for me to graduate high school.For one of my service projects,the volleyball team and I went to the Kirkwood area to clean up houses after a tornado came sweeping through the town. Showing up to the tornado site was devastating to see.There were families that were crying and saying that they had nothing left of their houses except for the foundation of the house.My team and I spent about eight hours there throwing bricks,pieces of wood,and parts of the walls and roofs of the houses into giant dumpsters.One moment that impacted me was when an older man drove by and told me one of his houses was struck by the tornado.He said to me “Thanks for everything you guys are doing;it means a lot to me and also the rest of the community.
           Another service I did was my class went to this cemetery that was in horrible condition.There were gravestones knocked over,grass up to my hips,and trees that had fallen onto graves.We spent all day cutting the grass and carrying tree limbs to be tossed through a shredder.Fox 2 news showed up to interview the owners of the cemetery and also some of the students who were helping to rehabilitate this cemetery.After we finished for the day,the school received a call from the owners of the cemetery.They wanted to tell our school how much it meant to them,how they received calls from the public saying “how much better it looks,” and that they wanted us to come back next year.
           When I first heard that we had to do community service for McKendree,I was kind of hesitant.I did not want to wake up at 6:45 in the morning to do work.But when I woke up,I realized that this was for a good cause.The service I had to do was for an elementary school.We had to paint curbs that were damaged from rain and tear.Doing this service I did not receive as much of a personal experience,but it was an experience in a wider range.Not only did it affect me,but it also affected the community.I liked painting the curbs because I knew it was an object I can see with a physical change.I would rather do this type of service because I do landscape,and cutting grass is not as meaningful to me since I do it all the time.I am glad I had an opportunity to do this type of service.I really enjoyed it and it also made me closer to my classmates.Community service became not only a chore but was it was rewarding. It helped me understand that I do not have to do service just to receive feedback. 
By Josh Thum
I am volleyball player at McKendree University.  I enjoy playing golf in my free time. 

Reconstructing My Life

When one hears the word reconstruction, what does he or she think of? At first I thought of remodeling a house or fixing a building that has been damaged. When I heard my doctor tell me that I am having ACL reconstruction, I think my heart skipped a beat. Just wondering why this happened to me when I was at the top of both of my sports, baseball and hockey, was absolutely mind blowing. The doctor said I was going to have a rough nine months ahead of me. I had to wait till the doctor was free to schedule me for the surgery; then I had the whole rehabilitation process going to physical therapy four times a week, and then coming back to the two sports and relearning how to play them was probably the hardest part of it all.

I tore my ACL at the end of the hockey season of my junior year. Of course my dad and I being hard-heads, I tried playing through the pain. I ended up playing eight games on the torn ACL. I did not go to the doctor and had my knee checked out till the beginning of baseball season. The doctor did a bunch of tests on my knee and could not figure out why my knee was swollen like a water balloon. Finally he put my leg in a forty-five degree angle then pulled, and once again I found myself crying from all the pain that just hit me like running into a brick wall. He scheduled me for an MRI the next day and the results came back I had a torn ACL, bucket tear of the meniscus, torn mcl, and broken tibia. The doctor was booked from other surgeries all the way till April so I scheduled it the day after my prom so I could experience the best dance that I have been to in my life. The wait was a long month of watching my team play without me. The wait was not worth it; I was in so much pain after I did not want to walk again.
Two days after surgery, I had my first physical therapy ever. Barely walking and still afraid that I would blow out my knee again. I was then introduced to my physical therapist, Kelly; she was nice but she made sure that my shirt was drenched in sweat every time I left the building. I felt like I was at boot camp the whole time until I was introduced to my favorite machine, electric stem. This machine literally shocked me, but the shocking felt amazing. I laid on the table what felt like hours but was really only fifteen minutes. I started going four times a week dreading the workout that I was not used to but loving the electro stem at the end of every session. I started feeling no shock from the machine, as they would turn the machine all the way up as Kelly is wondering why I could not feel the shocking sensation. As my knee started to develop back to the amazing knee I had, I was able to do more and more moving. I worked all summer on rehabilitating my knee back to one hundred percent, finally able to start hitting baseballs again but not able to step on the ice yet.
The first time I stepped in the batting cage it looked as if I was lost. Before the knee injury I would step in the cage with no fear holding the bat as if I felt invincible; I felt as if the pitcher could not throw a pitch by me. I would step in the batter’s box, and I was able to hit the ball no matter where it was pitched. After rehabbing my knee, I found myself looking at strikes and swinging almost as if I was blind. Finally starting to have good contact on the ball I started to have my confidence back and I started becoming the former baseball player that I used to be. Now it was time to step back on the ice where I tore my ACL. Almost a year out, and I had no clue how the first skate would be. I took a few strides, and my knee was still holding strong. Scared to stop I felt like the person that played in the movie The Mighty Ducksthat had all the speed in the world but could not stop to save his life. I had a long road ahead of me to become the player that took me years to be in the first place. With all the work that I have already put into my knee, I knew that it was only a matter of time until I was back. Long hours of training took me to where I am now playing hockey for McKendree University. My baseball career did not keep going, but my hockey career became  my life. I now had to focus on my future while I still had my childhood dream come true. I still had one of my sports while giving up the other for the education.
Finally coming back to the player that I was taught me that the only way to keep going was not to look back on the past but to look forward on the great achievements that will happen from hard work and the mindset that I was here for a reason. I had to reconstruct my whole life to become who I am now. The doctor had to reconstruct my knee, I had to go through the rehab, and finally figure out how to become someone that I was not anymore. With all the work that I have put in my knee, I learned that I will have to give one hundred percent from here on to keep my life going in the right direction.
By Austin McEwen 
I play hockey for McKendree, and I also love writing.

Lesson of a Life

I just finished my last day at work and it was time to say goodbye to my colleagues. It was late July, and the sun was up in the sky. They were sad or maybe pretended to be, but at this point, I did not care. It was a good time and I learned a lot in that company but it was time to move on and the next step was about to be exciting. I worked as a commercial assistant in a company called “Air Liquide Welding” who was selling industrial supplies. I was fired because the activity was low but actually it was perfect for me because it was my plan to quit because I had others plans for my bright future. My parents were sad that I was fired because they were worried about my future and were scared for me. Nowadays, the work market is quite difficult, and it is hard to find a job because of the crisis. I can understand that they were worried but I was not because I had this plan in my head that I wanted to go back in school but in USA, and I was going to do everything possible to do it. The plan was clear and simple : go back to school in USA. I did not know yet, but life had a lesson for me.
         The 2013 year, I just had one goal : working and save my money to go back in America to study and play soccer. During this year, I thought about coming back to the U.S every single day. Every move was in relation with my future student life in America. My mother was kind of angry because she did not want me to go far away from her once again. She likes her babies close to her. I can understand that but I also needed my space, and life in France was not for me anymore. Too much negativity for me in this country right now and I did not need this in my life. I love my country but I felt like I had to leave it for so many reasons. The reasons were because people always complain and I felt like I was not moving forward in my life anymore, so I needed change in my life. Just after leaving my job, I received this call from the soccer coach of McKendree University, and he wanted me to come to play for August 2013; the fall season. I cannot explain my joy. I felt like all my hard work finally paid off. My little brother was so happy for me. My parents were happy but not that much because they knew I will have to leave the family house once again. The coach wanted me to come in August 2013, but I told him it was impossible due to all the papers I had to send and all my diplomas I had to translate so I asked him if I could come to the university in January 2014, and he said yes. I was so happy, and I could not wait to start doing all the papers and begin my workout plan to be fit in order to be ready for soccer season. All I was thinking about right now was this future adventure, and I was totally happy about that because I take soccer and school seriously.
However, during this summer, my father made an announcement that was going to change every aspect of this adventure and also my future life. He was taking us to Angola in Africa to visit my mother’s parents. My brother and I started to laugh because we had heard this a lot and, we did not believe it anymore. We felt like we were never going to see our roots and motherland. That was sad, but actually we were used to it right now. This time my father was being serious and already had the plane tickets. I was excited because this was my first time in Africa, and I could not wait to see what Africa had to offer. Anyway, we were almost ready and booked all the doctors’ appointments before we went. We were not be allowed to go to Africa if we do not take all the vaccinations before. They are strict about this. The hardest part of a family trip was to pack. It was pretty long, and we had to take with us the right clothes. It was easy because in Angola it is hot, so bring on the shorts and t-shirts. What we also have to know is that in Africa, we cannot come without our hands full of presents. Any kind of presents : clothes, accessories but the most important : medications. They need it, and they will be happy to have it. The packing was finished, I think we were ready to go. The worst part about this long trip were all the connecting flights and the wait.
We flew from Paris to Brussels and then to Luanda, the capital city of Angola. One word to describe this priceless moment : WOW! I felt like a new-born right then. New people, new language (Portuguese), new smells, it was intense and interesting. The best moment when we landed there was when my mother saw her sisters. It was an emotional moment, and I almost cried. They all looked alike, same face, same laugh, same height. I saw my aunts for the first time of my life. I cannot understand when they spoke in Portuguese but I understood when they spoke in Lingala. They were nice and already treated me like I was their new son. In Angola and in Africa in general, people respect family. It was the most precious gift they had instead of money or materials. We were heading to my grandpa’s home, the father of my mother. She had not seen him since 1985. I looked forward to experiencing. We were in different cars my family and I because we brought a lot of luggage. So I tried to talk with my cousin with a mix of French, Portuguese and a lot of English.
We arrived at my grandpa’s house. It was a huge fancy white house the government gave to him because he used to work for the government during the war in Angola. Most of African countries had their independence during the 60s but Angola had it in 1975. So the peace in the country is new. The first time since 1996, I saw my grandparents again. They came to see us in 1996 in Paris. It was the first I met them. My grand-father was an old man. He is also blind, but he can see through his others senses and he is the wisest man I have ever known. My grand-mother is like my mother. A small old lady who talks a lot and likes to take care of people. She also had back and feet problems; the same problems my mother is starting to have. We also met a few of my cousins, around forty cousins. We have a huge family. My mother has nine siblings and my father has twelve siblings and all his brothers and sisters have children. Anyway, we were tired from the trip, but they wanted us to eat before bed. There were a lot of fish and potatoes. We finally went to sleep to be ready to attack the next day. The second day was nice. All sunny, warm weather and warm family. We were finally all reunited together for a month of vacation. My grand-father is blind, but he wrote a book about roots of Kikongo ( Ancestral Language in Angola ). When I used to talk to him, I was fascinated by his calm and wise words. My whole vision of the world changed when we started talking together. He gave advice to me and my brother. He showed me alternative thinking to have a different outlook on life. I will never forget these long night conversations with my “Avo” (Grand-Father in Portuguese). He wanted us to come back in Angola to help the country. He said “Africa needs you, you are the tools of our success. The resources are here and we need your skills to exploit them.” This quote stayed in my head since then. He was right. We came there to visit my mom’s family, but my father also had a few members of his family there.
We went to my uncle’s house. It was a house in a poor neighborhood with no water and electricity. These conditions were rustic, but we had to adapt. But I had never seen a happier person than my uncle. He was so welcoming, always smiling and had this impressive positive outlook on life even though he was poor. That was another lesson here. The world was not based on money and materials. We miss a lot of moments in our lives because we are stuck into “routines” that make us selfish. Back from my uncle’s house, we went back to my “Avo’s” home. After that, we went to the beach; my parents finally received their official Angolan ID, so that means we can be Angolan by affiliation. I am happy about that because it will be easier for me to go back in the future. Life was beautiful. We spent one month in Angola, moving from house to house, cousin to cousin, eating different food and sharing. I was not thinking of my trip in USA anymore. I clearly had the time of my life, and I now had a different vision of life. My goals were the same, but I embrace them differently.
This month gave me now more energy to finish my project to go back to America. Now it was time to go back to Europe. Everybody came to say ” Au revoir ” to us. We cried because my “Avos” were old, and it was maybe the last time we would see them but it was a precious time. Now we went back to France, and my motivation to achieve my goal was renewed. I already knew where I was going, but now I also knew for whom I was doing it.

By Boris Kiesse-Makangu
Young French/Angolan man trying to reach his dreams.  The best way to enjoy your life is to live it!

Stay Positive

P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; direction: ltr; color:Presenting her book The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls told us that she used to have a deep shame of her past life and that she tried to keep it a secret from everyone. In my honest opinion, I did not see the reason why she should have been ashamed of her past life. It was not her fault that her parents could not take better care of their children. When she said that when people would read her story she said, “I thought I’d lose everything once people found out my story.” This part made me sad because if people did not want to be her friend anymore because of the past she had, they were not the type of people she would need in her life.  

One saying I liked what she said was, “The truth is a liquid, not a solid. It takes on many shapes.” This statement is so true. The truth can be whatever you want it to be. You can form the truth, mold it, and make it your own shape. No one has to tell the whole truth, but he or she has the option of telling bits and part of the truth or all of the truth.

I loved how her favorite memory that she had as a child was when her father let her have the planet Venus as a Christmas present. Even though her father did not own Venus, the thought of letting her call it her own was so cute. She said it was a priceless treasure and that, “It is what you make of it.” Instead of being sad because her dad did not physically buy her a Christmas present, she treasured the idea that her dad was at least trying to give her something. It made me be more appreciative and have a different mindset on how I view life. It is what I make of it, and no one can say otherwise. 
 

Another lesson I learned from Jeannette Walls was when she said that when she was little she had a fear that some creature was hiding under her bed. She went and told her dad and instead of checking under the bed, they went to go look for the demon. She said that, “We should not run from our demons. Instead, harness your demon and use it to your advantage.” Her demon was her past and the shame she had from it. To face her demon, she wrote this book. This was inspiring because life should not be about running from your fears. I cannot learn from life’s lessons if I always run in the other direction. Facing my demons will only make me stronger as a person, and who knows, the outcome may be rewarding.

Jeannette Walls also told us that, “Everything in life is both a blessing and a curse. We get to choose which one we want to focus on.” It is true. We have the opportunity to either focus on the good or bad in our lives. If we have the decision to choose, why not choose to focus on the blessings? I loved how instead of her moping around and saying how her life sucked, she thought of her past as a blessing. She thought that she was the lucky one because her parents never made fun of their children’s dreams. Instead of focusing on the negative in her parents, she thought of the good in them and accepted them as who they were. Honestly, I am amazed that someone like her can be so accepting. Personally, I would have hated my parents and would have never wanted anything to do with them. I would have been so upset that they could not take care of me and that I could have had a better childhood. But this made me realize that we cannot change people. We cannot mold them into what we want them to be. Merely we just have to accept them for whom they are and focus on the positives in them. 
 

Lastly, I loved how she said that, “Secrets are like vampires. They suck the life out of you, but once you release them, poof, they are gone.” I loved this analogy because it was so vivid and so true. Secrets drain us. They bring us down. Once you tell your secrets, it is like a heavy weight has been lifted off your chest. Secrets do bring us down, and they are not healthy for us. 
 

All in all, I loved all her analogies, and she made me realize that someone that has had a negative childhood like her can still go far. It gave me this burst of energy to go out and do what I dream of doing. She was most definitely an inspiring speaker and writer.
By Annarose Dale
I am a freshman at McKendree University majoring in Business Administration and possibly Accounting.


Jeannette Walls Visits The Hett

I had the privilege of attending a speaker series at McKendree University last week.  The speaker was Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle, Half Broke Horses and The Silver Star.  

Ms Walls gave a brief summary of her life, for the few (if any) in the audience that had not read The Glass Castle.  It had been a while since I had read the book. and she mentioned facts I had forgotten about – setting herself on fire while cooking a hot dog on the stove at age three, her father whisking her out of the hospital in the middle of the night, and while riding in a taxi in New York City realizing the homeless person digging through the trash was in fact her mother.  

Ms Walls had a difficult childhood to say the least, and her father was a huge part of the dysfunction. He drank to the point of not having food to for his children, yet Ms Walls came away from her childhood with an ability to dream and hope.  This she said came from her father.  Throughout her childhood, her father promised to build his family a glass castle, their dream house, when he finally made his fortune.  He taught his children to dream and the author felt that this shaped her and her siblings to be successful (the three oldest siblings anyway).  

She said that her fantasy when writing The Glass Castle was that a rich girl would read it and understand where the poor kids in class were coming from and then she hoped that a poor child would read it and realize there is hope, and that dreams are important to be successful.  Both fantasies have come true, as teenagers have given testimony Ms Walls changed their lives.

The audience was able to ask questions to Ms Walls.  A few things we learned:  her mother is now living with the author on her ranch, caring for the family’s horses.  She is still as eccentric as ever, and no one expects that to change.  The land in Texas is still in their possession.  There may be natural gas or oil but most likely it is just dry dirt like most of west Texas.  There will be a movie made, most likely by Lion’s Gate.      

Ms Walls is such an inspiring person, with an exceptionally inspiring story to tell.  She is down-to-earth and open about her past, and unashamed of it, although it has taken her years to reach that point.  Her speech and her story make me feel blessed with what I have and more aware and sympathetic to those that come from a different way of life.
 
By Karen MacMillan


Why Couldn’t It Wait?

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The moment before I nailed into the van that was stopped in the middle of the highway, my only thought was “I am going to be in so much trouble.” What makes the situation worse is that it was entirely my fault. I knew I should not have been texting and driving at the same time; I do not know why I just did not check my phone before I stepped into the car. This whole accident could have been avoided, but it was not, and I will always regret that mistake.
That night, I had worked a five-hour shift. When another female employee came in to relieve me, I darted out of the store as fast I could. Phone, purse, and keys in hand, I scuttled toward my car, eager to return home and take a warm, relaxing shower. After starting my car, I turned on my phone to look at all the missed alerts I had received while I was occupied at work . . .. Thirteen missed texts; I was missing out on important gossip! As I turned onto the highway, I began reading the messages. I looked down at the screen for several seconds then glanced back at the road just to ensure that I was not about to plunge into a ditch or even into a field. As I recall, I was looking down, analyzing a message, but as I glanced up, it was too late. Stopped completely, about a hundred yards ahead of me was a van. At that moment, I was too much in shock to respond in any way; I knew in a couple seconds I was going to collide into that vehicle. I remember my only thought being “I am going to be in so much trouble.” I knew my parents would be livid with me once they found out I had caused the accident because of my carelessness. They had always told me the severity of texting and driving, but I failed to listen to them.
I could feel my body becoming so tense, not being able to move my muscles, much less even blink. The crash happened so fast; as I plowed into the back bumper, my head hit the steering wheel, and my phone flew against the windshield. 
When I finally acquired the courage to look up, I was staring at the back end of this van. As the elderly man stepped out of the driver’s side, I opened my door, my hands shaking uncontrollably. We agreed to pull into the nearest clearing to move ourselves, and our damaged vehicles, off the road. The man explained that this was no ordinary van, but a handicapped van that his wife used to commute to and from therapy; it was her only source of transportation since she had recently been placed in a wheelchair. A thousand thoughts went through my head, but I could not say a word. My mouth was frozen in place; I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not make a sound. Right then, I started to cry uncontrollably. The elderly man gave me a hug and told me to call my dad, then continued to comfort me until he showed up at the scene. Surprisingly, my dad was not as upset as I thought he would be. His main concern was my safety, as well as the passenger in the opposite car. Fortunately, we had the situation taken care of without calling the police. 
The worst part of the accident, for me, was how I affected another person’s life without her even being there. I had dented in the back bumper so far, that the doors were jammed shut. The elderly man’s wife was not able to travel to or from any physical therapy or counseling for at least a week. Still to this day I think, “Why was it so important for me to check my phone?” I had been working a long shift, and I lived the next town over. The damage was expensive, and we paid it “out of pocket” so my insurance did not skyrocket. My parents did not take my phone or even ground me from my car because they knew that the guilt I felt was punishment enough. If the person texted me five hours ago, I am sure that she could have waited another five minutes. In all seriousness, I do not even have the slightest idea to this day what that text message had said as I was reading it.  
I now know that what I do can have an effect on so many other people. I take full responsibility for the accident I caused, and there is not a day that goes by where I do not think about it when I pass the scene. If I could take it back, I would in a heartbeat. Putting oneself at risk is one problem, but putting another person’s life is selfish. I did not mean to harm anyone, yet by looking at my phone for a few seconds I harmed others. It does not matter that they were not harmed physically, but mentally and emotionally they had been. If I could do it over, I would have kept my phone off until I had reached home. There is no excuse for anyone to be looking down, or even talking on the phone, while driving. I promise;  it can wait. 
by Kailee Rule
I am a student at McKendree University double majoring in Accounting and Business Administration.

The Lake

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          The sun glared a brilliant red as it emerged through the dense trees. Spiderwebs draped the chipped white and navy plastic of the pontoon’s seats, glistening with the dew of the morning. Leaves littered the stained blue carpet of the boat, and others glided lazily down to join the unkempt piles. The tarnish on the metal pontoons had faded to a darker bronze from where it waded in lake water, forming an obvious line of wear to show where that water had abused its surface. Suspended in midair, the lifeless propeller displayed its use like a trophy. A dark brown film of muck coated its once white exterior and long gashes in the three blades told stories of the times it fought to free us from shallow water, or slammed against the dock.
           My sister, brother, and I all boarded the boat using a rusted ladder attached carefully to the bow on two protruding hooks as it hung off the ground. Each of us exchanged animated laughter, discussing the game of ball tag we would later play as my brother and I tossed the small, orange plush-ball back and forth. Clinging to my red and yellow life jacket, the musty smell of the fabric reached up to caress my nose as we all claimed a seat. My mom, dangling the keys to the ignition, pulled open the driver’s side door of my grandpa’s deep crimson truck. My dad clutched the stuffed swim bag protruding with a towel for each of us and SPF 50. He reached up to hand it to me, and I sat it gingerly beside my seat so I could keep a close eye on it. My brother stretched out his sun-kissed legs on top of the blue and white cooler with our last name smeared in sharpie marker in my dad’s neat draftsmen capital letters. The truck coughed to life as my mom turned the serrated car key. She stared backward, twisted awkwardly to see behind her while my dad guided her. She inched slowly toward the polished boat hitch and hit her mark with precision. We were ready for the lake.
Treading with hard, measured steps on the gravel, my dad replaced my mom behind the wheel. He slammed the car door, ceasing the calming sound of chirping birds celebrating the coming of a new day. The boat creaked and moaned under its own weight as the truck tugged it along behind it. Each of us ducked in unison to avoid the sagging tree branches that rustled in the August breeze. Behind us, the pontoon kicked up a cloud of dust which concealed the narrow dirt road we had already passed. The cloud swirled like a storm and expanded as we continued to bump along on the rocky path surrounded on all sides by looming trees. Sunlight peeked through the branches in a brighter yellow shade, casting thread-like rays onto the ground.
As it opened up, the tree tunnel yielded the radiant light of day, causing me to blink from the transition. Dragonflies whisked around our heads leaving behind the tingling sensation of buzzing in our ears. A small, deserted parking lot paralleled the tiny dock my grandfather had built. Grass peeked up in small green tufts at even intervals in the dirt between where the cars would have rested. The old wooden dock, which was sandwiched between two metal poles that clearly displayed their exposure to the weather, swayed with the rocking water that relentlessly slapped the battered wood.
          My mom hopped out of the truck as we pulled up on the gravel path just next to a slab of sloping concrete. It dropped sharply into a steep slant before disappearing into the depths of the murky water. The truck crept forward once more around a gradual elevated curve in the road until the rear of the pontoon was positioned before the slope next to the bobbing dock. My mom waited patiently as my dad backed into the water, dipping the boat in at a sharp angle. She barked an order to my sister, and she responded by meekly tossing a frayed yellow rope toward the dock. My mom snatched it out of the air and choked the metal pole closest to us with the drooping rope. My dad straddled the boat carrier and cranked a lever to undo the hitch. His face turned a bright red from bending over. A loud groan escaped the hitch as the boat finally detached and was free to float in the water. My dad maneuvered behind the wheel a second time and drove the truck toward a vacant parking space. The carrier dripped continuously from where it had been doused in the dirty lake water. My dad leaped from the truck where he now occupied two unmarked parking spaces and went to join my mom who had pulled us and the rope taut to keep the pontoon from escaping. Hopping onto the boat through one of the gates, my dad inserted the key into the boat’s ignition. The machine gave an ear-piercing scream in response to the key before it hummed to life, letting out a small puff of gas from the motor. Mom had the rope twisted around her wrist like a cobra and held the boat against the front of the dock with it. As we inched slowly forward, she leaped on board and yanked up on the gate to fasten it in place. The greenish water shimmered in the sunlight before us, rippling outward in our wake. Once again we were reunited with Lake Kinkaid.
          
          Some of the best moments in my life were spent on the lake on our old pontoon. To feel the wind tickle my face as we glided on top of the glassy water was the part of my childhood that I thought would never fade. Though our blemished and battered pontoon, with the stains that gave the carpet its character and the seats that scorched our bare legs are no longer ours, I still have the memories to keep each summer on the lake with me always. 
By Aubrey  
I am a freshman at McKendree University and plan on majoring in Biology. I love animals and have a deep passion for nature. When I was younger, my family used to own a lake house on Lake Kinkaid which was one of my favorite places in the world. I love boating, tubing and being outdoors.